Food Science: the pathway to STEM
Project Background: This USDA-funded project aimed to increase interest in food science-based STEM for girls and underserved communities. In collaboration with team members from the University of Guelph, the UMass Food Science Extension team developed five food science-themed programs to be delivered virtually or in person. Each program includes a safe-to-use science kit that is uniquely designed to be easy to clean, portable, and low cost that provides 3 hands-on engagement activities. Program modules introduce various food science concepts, including processing, ingredients, biopolymers, powders, and surface tension.
Each food science program is a 2-hour time block that includes:
Throughout the project, our team hosted 21 hands-on learning STEM programs targeted to girls and underrepresented youth in rural communities with organizational partners from the YMCA, Girls Inc, 4H, and Girl Scouts. As a result, these programs reached 213 youth and totaled an estimated (384 contact hours). The 5 newly prepared programs are open-access modules for other STEM outreach coordinators to use with youth that include: a user guide, an instructor guide, a product supply inventory, and video tutorials demonstrating each activity.
The STEM field is declining in interest among young people, especially in females and underrepresented communities. It is imperative to have better perspectives in different cultural backgrounds directed toward solving problems for the global process and sustaining our economy. Early experiences in STEM, such as hands-on labs, can improve a student’s self-confidence and self-efficacy in the subject. Using food science as a vehicle to introduce interest in science can help demonstrate how science connects to their everyday life because food connects to key science principles (i.e. chemistry, biology, physics, and engineering). Therefore, a team of food scientists from UMass Amherst and UGuelph prepared hands-on STEM programs targeted to youth communities to promote interest in STEM career paths
Outputs and Extension Materials:
Program Description: Have you ever thought about why water forms droplets on windows when it rains? Or why do we need to shake some salad dressings vigorously before use? During this fun interactive session, you will use different techniques to study surface tension and how it plays a role in the properties of food.
This program was developed by the University of Massachusetts and the University of Guelph under the funded support by the Women and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Fields Program (Grant no. 2019-38503-330222) from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.